David Moyes on Project Restart: 'There's a lot at stake for us'
In our exclusive interview, the Hammers manager talks about Zoom gym sessions, full contact training and empty stadiums as the Premier League returns.
“Have you got me?” asks West Ham manager David Moyes as he connects to the Zoom meeting.
Almost. Despite being able to hear him, half of the screen remains blank for a few seconds as he turns his webcam on.
Eventually Moyes' face appears. It's 2.30pm on a Friday afternoon and, having just taken training, he is sat in his club tracksuit in his office at the London Stadium.
With strict measures limiting visitors at all clubs in the Premier League, a face-to-face meeting is impossible.
But nearly three months into what is now known as 'the new normal', speaking to one another through our laptops doesn't seem so strange.
Finding new ways to communicate has been a challenge faced by everyone, and football clubs are no exception to that after they were instructed to stop training at the end of March.
"In the early stages, I had a lot of calls with Mark Noble,” says Moyes. “Then after the first couple of weeks we got the other players on the calls.
"We had regular team meetings on Saturdays and then a team gym session.”
That lockdown fitness regime wasn't exclusive to the West Ham players, either.
"I tried to keep as active as I could," says Moyes. "I haven't got any equipment, so it was old-fashioned press-ups and squat thrusts."
The 57-year-old is currently in his second spell as West Ham manager, having previously been in charge for the majority of the 2017/18 season.
After re-joining the club in December, he also used the suspension of the season to bond with his players.
“When I came in, we were right into games within a day or two,” says Moyes.
“I've liked having a bit more time with the players and I have been able to get to know a bit about them and their families.”
West Ham eventually returned to their Rush Green training ground on 19 May, where they were limited to working with smaller groups and were unable to have any physical contact with each other.
Moyes was impressed with the professionalism shown by the players during their time away.
"They came back in really good shape," he says. "But there's a difference between being fit like the players were when they arrived back and being football fit.
"Players need acceleration, deceleration and to be able to change direction quickly, so the most important thing for me when we got them back was to get on the ball straight away."
Premier League clubs unanimously voted to resume full contact training on 27 May, giving Moyes and his staff around three weeks to get his side ready for their first game of the restart – at home to Wolves on 20 June.
"I've got to say it has felt good," he says. "We were able to open up the area in which we train. We hoped that the bigger capacity coupled with a bit more sharpness would help.
"We have been able to have 11 v 11 and 7 v 7 games. We have tried to give them a variation of everything so we're prepared."
Moyes admits that the short turnaround time has required some resourceful planning, but says his players face the biggest challenge.
"I think the big thing we'll have to cope with is having so many games in a short space of time. I'm really hoping the scheduling gives us enough recovery time."
One thing neither Moyes nor any other Premier League manager can properly prepare for is the prospect of playing competitive football in empty stadiums.
With restrictions on mass gatherings in place until further notice, fans will not be allowed to attend any of the remaining games this season.
The West Ham manager is clear about the role he feels the club's supporters normally play.
"We will miss the crowd," he says. "I think we don't realise how important the West Ham supporters are to us.
"In my last stint here, we were in a pretty similar position, and I thought the supporters made a massive difference.
"We'll be doing it for the supporters. That's what football is about – you do it for the supporters."
But Moyes is confident that his players will be able to cope with the different atmosphere.
"We've all experienced it throughout our career, wherever we've been," he says.
"Young players tend to play in front of no crowds, then you have practice matches and sometimes training days at the stadium where there's no crowd."
West Ham head into the restart 16th in the Premier League table, above the relegation zone on goal difference and with nine games remaining.
Instead of concentrating on something the players cannot control, Moyes wants them to focus entirely on the task in hand.
"Mentally, we want the players to be right," he says. "We realise that we're back to win. We're preparing to win games.
"There's a lot at stake for us at West Ham and we're all aware of that.
"If you're not motivated by this, then there's nothing that will motivate you."
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